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Kannapolis Council hears update on Research Campus, water supply

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó The N.C. Research Campus is growing day by day, and money from tax-increment financing bonds should be on its way to aid that growth by the year’s end.
So said Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg in a report to City Council Monday night, emphasizing the next steps in the bond issue process and the next milestones in development of the downtown biotech facility.
“We know that it’s a monumental project and that over $300 million of private money has already been invested,” Legg said.
And according to him, that investment will help smooth the sale of the bonds ó to be repaid with taxes on improvements associated with the campus ó that will pay for continued improvements to infrastructure, roads and parks to support the campus.
Although the current economy is sour, Legg told council members the significant up-front investment by Castle & Cooke and a number of North Carolina universities will encourage bond buyers.
“The $300 million (of construction) already in place is a big positive,” Legg said. “They can see that it’s not just a map.”
And more new projects are set to begin construction “any day now,” he said.
The medical office building that will house the Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast and Wilmington-based PPD facilities on the campus will be one of the next to begin construction.
Also, the Cabarrus Health Alliance building negotiated as a condition of Cabarrus County’s involvement in the TIF project will be started soon.
Legg did not mention specific dates for those projects to begin or for their completion.
The one aspect of campus development that’s slowed is the residential component, due to an overall slowing economy.
But Legg said more than 200 townhomes developer Castle & Cooke has planned for the former site of Pillowtex Plant 4 between Main Street and Dale Earnhardt Boulevard are still on the way.
“They will get built, there’s no question,” he said. “They want to have a product for people moving here … but they haven’t decided when they will break ground.”
Other civic improvements, such as planting 2,000 new trees and adding pedestrian tunnels for access to Village Park from the campus, are more than a year out.
The first issue of $95 million worth of bonds will come in November and December of this year, with Bank of America as lead underwriter and Citigroup, BB&T and Wachovia as co-underwriters to help market those bonds.
The next big task: getting the city ready for visits from potential investors.
“We will have a lot of people coming to Kannapolis and will be showing them the project,” Legg said.
In other business, the council:
– Denied, on a 4-3 vote, an appeal of a zoning ruling for a 6.9-acre plot at the intersection of N.C. 73 and Jim Johnson Road.
The parcel is owned by Larry and Heather Stancil and was annexed by the city in May.
Council members expressed concern at that time over the stated proposed use ó climate-controlled self-storage facilities that council members said were not in line with the high-end residential properties nearby.
The proposal to rezone the property for conditional general commercial use was unanimously denied by the Kannapolis Planning and Zoning Board and came to the council on appeal.
Councilmen Gene McCombs, Richard Anderson, Ken Geathers and Darrell Hinnant voted against the measure despite a last-minute withdrawal of the self-storage proposal by the Stancils’ representative, Richard Flowe of N-Focus Design, in favor of general commercial with similar conditions for use.
With the failure of the rezoning petition, the former Cabarrus County zoning of light residential remains in effect.
– Heard a presentation by Public Works Director Wilmer Melton on local water supplies.
Melton said that water restrictions should continue at current levels because of continued lack of rainfall and predictions of a slow emergence from extreme and exceptional drought in the area.
Kannapolis’ water usage, including local consumption and water sold to other municipalities, is approximately 5.4 million gallons per day, Melton said.
– Received a proclamation naming August 26 “Warner Rickard Rodgers Sr. Day” in Kannapolis in honor of the 87-year-old member of the Kannapolis Planning and Zoning Board.
Rodgers is retiring after serving on the board since its inception in 1985. He received a plaque and a commemorative coin from Mayor Bob Misenheimer.
Another city employee, Sherry Aldridge, was also honored on her retirement after 19 years with Kannapolis Public Works as an administrative assistant.

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